Aisle . . . sigh, every aisle

So I went to Barnes and Noble today . . .






The store was chock full of more gender-separated books like those I saw at the grocery store last week. For inquiring minds, girls search for items hidden at the beauty shop, shopping mall, beach, and rock concert, as well as a page full of cats and one full of hearts. Boys, meanwhile, search for items hidden at the ballpark, in space, at a silly circus, the dog Olympics, and a rock concert, as well as a page of dinosaurs, and one called “cat and mouse free-for-all.” So boys and girls find their overlap at rock concerts . . . interesting! Also interesting that to include cute animals in the boys’ book required athleticizing them (dog Olympics) or making them a battle of some sort.

Let’s see here, girls doodle mermaids, unicorns, dragons, cats (again — who knew we were culturally conditioned to become crazy cat ladies!), microphones and sunglasses, crowns, horses, castles, ballerinas, frog princes, food, and animals. Boys doodle knights and dragons, cowboys, kites, trains and bulldozers, superheroes, rockets, a boy shooting a slingshot, a caveman, and also animals, although most of them seem to be predators — a tiger, a shark. Oh, and a skull and crossbones.

So, dear readers, if we were going to crowd-design a fun book with items that don’t assume or prescribe gendered interest, what would you include? I can tell you that both my kids adore mermaids and fairies (some boys as well as girls would be nice). I know five boy ballet dancers (or how about ice skaters, with their super fancy sequined outfits?) Both my kids like cute animals and also dinosaurs and tigers. They both love shooting bows and arrows. They like space (a girl astronaut please!) Unicorns are popular — in fact, any mythological animal is a hit. Pirates — love ’em (and there were women pirates, by the way). There are also lots of women warriors in myth and history, as I’ve mentioned in the past. My daughter is so-so on trains, but I know a girl whose mom is desperate to find a Thomas the Train dress (good luck with that). And wouldn’t it be nice to have some referents from cultures besides northern European? I love turreted castles and unicorns, but how about djinn, Ananzi, Coyote? How ’bout some variation in skin tone? What would you add?

By the way, let me emphasize that I was NOT going around looking for these! They seemed to be everywhere I looked. And on the way out, by the exit door, the story book entry:

As we were on our way out, I didn’t stop to review the tables of contents. However, it seems that “tales of mystery, suspense, and adventure” appealed to readers more than standing in a field wearing pink, because there was only one of the “boys'” books left.

There is a great recent blog post about the need for strong female role models in children’s books that you should just go and read. A taste:

Why is it that little boys should be guided towards tales of adventure, fantasy, pirates, and danger, while females are limited to stories of damsels in distress and Prince Charmings who wake the sleeping princess with a kiss?

Indeed. I think it’s time to upset the applecart, folks!

This entry was posted in Books, Femininity, Masculinity, The boy box, The girl box, The space between and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Aisle . . . sigh, every aisle

  1. olymomma says:

    So maybe there is a market for the car dress I made for my son per his request…

  2. Abby says:

    An endless cycle. My son loves peace signs. Last night I ordered socks from Carter’s/Oshkosh for my daughter with peace signs and when I checked the “boys” there were only sports or skulls. I ordered him “girls” socks. He loves sparkles and nail polish. I was told by my local Montessori school (private) to stop “labeling” my son when I described him as gender fluid, and that “he probably only likes girlie things because he has a creative mother who sews and a little sister”… Ugh. Where does all of this end? My son is 5 and is getting made fun on in public school but I can’t imagine private would be much better… Luckily he has complete support to be himself at home.

    • pink says:

      It’s not surprising that peace is considered feminine, I guess. But it’s pretty messed up. How does one say to a little boy, “Sorry, honey, peace isn’t for boys”? Isn’t it funny that one person allowing peace signs or sparkles is indoctrinating her kid, but an entire culture hurling messages is completely invisible? I feel such validation and resolve reading the comments and private emails I get that confirm 1) that we are who we are, and 2) that being supported by parents and community is crucial. Hang in there — (does your state have any anti-bullying legislation?)

      • Abby says:

        We are in Florida, there are state laws as well as school rules. The problem has been on the playground or at lunch when the kids aren’t so closely monitored. As a parent I try to stay as involved as possible. Today I volunteered in the classroom and one of the kids asked me why my son painted his fingernails. At least I’m there to try to help explain. Sad, though.

      • Alicia says:

        A friend asked me if my son wants to be a girl (he also paints his nails, has long, long hair, wears some – not a lot – of makeup, heels, and pearls – he is NOT, however, a drag queen, and he identifies as male). When I said no, he said “you’d never know it to look at him.” It’s a shame that we still hold those prejudices..

        As an RA and an active participant in clubs, in school, my son is “in the limelight” a lot. Recently a resident asked him “so, which is it – he or she?” While he explained that there was a more polite way of asking, he told the resident “he,” and they both went on with their lives.

  3. Pingback: Buy This Instead! | Pink Is for Boys

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